The Open Agenda and New Faculty: Connecting Early

This post is part of a series on highlights and key takeaways from the 2016 SPARC MORE Meeting.

Meredith Niles is part of a growing generation of new faculty members who have essentially grown up embracing the open agenda. As a graduate student, Niles chose to publish in open-access journals and actively lobbied for open-access policies at the state and federal level. As her career progressed, she often wondered if – and how – her commitment to “open” might affect its trajectory.

Her initial answers have been positive. In the fall of 2015, Niles was appointed her first tenure-track position at the University of Vermont as an assistant professor in the department of nutrition and food sciences. She soon found herself in the thick of developing a course and syllabus with limited time and resources, challenging her ability to think about incorporating open resources and practices into her course. She also wanted to talk to her students about open access, open data, and open science, but realized she needed a different approach than the one she took when she had previously approached policymakers.

Niles suggests there are ways that libraries in particular can play a positive role in helping new faculty members such as her in this process. She encourages them to reach out to new faculty to help them stay committed to what has always been a default practice in their early research careers, and offers this advice:.

  • Catch them early. New faculty orientation is perfect opportunity to reach new faculty: Niles notes: “We’re a captive audience!” Share information about how to develop a new syllabus and introduce/include open resources.
  • Circle back mid-year. Those first few weeks can be overwhelming for new faculty, so Niles advises librarians to reach out again second semester to reiterate their willingness to help and explanation of services.
  • Encourage collaboration. Niles attended a workshop last year with colleagues and exchanged information on case studies that they all made freely available with a CC-BY license. It was a way to get information in an emerging field and develop open education resources as a group.
  • Promote alternative metrics. Part of a university’s mission is to develop experts for public service and work that focuses on disseminating knowledge widely should be valued in the tenure and promotion process, maintains Niles. Efforts should be focused on creating systems that acknowledge all research outputs, including publications in open-access journals. Consideration should be made to including those outputs on all forms that track research.

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